Sun Aims UltraSparc T2 Servers At Infrastructure Markets

The new systems include built-in virtualization capabilities and are suited for use in Web and application tiers, online transaction processing, and technical workloads.

Darrell Dunn, Contributor

October 9, 2007

3 Min Read

New servers introduced Tuesday by Sun Microsystems based on its internally-developed eight-core UltraSparc T2 processor are intended to lead the company to greater success in the hottest infrastructure markets as it promises improved energy efficiency inside high-density systems and more easily enable virtualization and encryption.

Sun has introduced the Sun Blade T6320, a blade server based on its recently introduced UltraSparc T2, or Niagara 2, processor. Also added where the Sparc Enterprise T5120 and 5220, one- and two-unit servers.

The new servers utilize the eight-core UltraSparc T2 which Sun introduced in August. The processor also integrates eight separate threads on each core to provide each processor with 64 processing elements. The processor is manufactured using a 65 nanometer manufacturing process.

"This is a culmination of a design effort not just in the processor level, but around every aspect of the system to realize the dream of bringing forth the world's fastest and most energy efficient technical servers ever available in the industry," said John Fowler, executive VP of systems for Sun at a press conference on Tuesday.

"We are announcing products that are fundamentally about changing the game in the infrastructure of running applications," Fowler said. "We are launching three new servers... with built in virtualization capability specifically intend and created for changing the economic equation around running networks applications in today's environment."

The UltraSparc T2 is providing a strong upgrade path for existing UltraSparc T1 customer, and should help Sun continue to build on the momentum that has allowed Sun to build the business to a $1 billion run rate, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64.

"These servers provide some compelling options, and for many IT managers who are facing serious problems in getting more work through their data centers," he said in an interview. "Sun took a very systems-oriented approach, and really the only constraints on it are that it's Solaris, not Linux, and it's Sparc and not x86."

The UltraSparc T2 design was able to address some issues that had hindered even greater growth, such as its poor performance with floating point applications, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata.

"Niagara 2 is certainly more general purpose than Niagara 1," Haff said in an interview. "While Niagara 2 shares much of the same design philosophy the differences between it and x86 processors are not as pronounced. It is now more oriented towards mainstream computing tasks.

The UltraSparc T2-based systems provide high density CPU capability capable of providing hundreds of computing threads per rack, and are particular suited for use in Web and application tiers and for online transaction processing and technical workloads, he said.

The new systems include built-in virtualization capabilities enabling businesses to improve system utilization and lower the cost of delivering new IT services, Fowler said. Businesses can dedicate portions of the multi-thread processor architecture to virtualization and use open source virtualization enablers such as Solaris Containers and Logical Domains.

The new servers also promise advanced reliability, availability and serviceability features that allow users to disable bad threads, detect multiple memory errors, and reallocate bad memory blocks. The servers are implemented with integrated lights out management tools that can result in decreased installation time, improved time to market, and a reduction in management overhead for ongoing maintenance and patching.

The servers have on-chip support for ten of the most common cryptographic ciphers, allowing the systems to provide up to 20 times more cryptographic operations per second than x86 processor-based servers, and 17 times more operations per second than dedicated cryptographic accelerator cards, according to Sun.

"Because we designed so many cores and threads on a single microprocessor, and combined it with the systems packaging and design that provides so much memory virtualization and other technical capabilities, we are able to equal the performance of systems of much greater physical size with the same technical capability but with very dramatic savings," Fowler said.

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